Breaking and Entering **1/2
Directed by Anthony Minghella
Written by Anthony Mingella
Jude Law as Will
Juliette Binoche as Amira
Robin Wright Penn as Liv
Martin Freeman as Sandy
Ray Winstone as Bruno
Vera Farmiga as Oana
Rafi Gavron as Miro
Poppy Rogers as Beatrice
120 Minutes(Rated R for sexuality and language.)
After weeks and weeks of delayed anticipation, "Breaking and Entering" is finally released in New York City. Those tricky Weinsteins decided to screw around with our heads once more, and instead of giving this a proper release date last month like planned, they had to go ahead and do a "one week only Oscar consideration run" and to top it off, they only did it in LA. Well, "Breaking and Entering" was ignored by the Oscars, and for good reason. This isn't a great film-it barely comes close to being considered a good film. But there is a lot of effort in it, and there is a script that has ideas, only just too many of them. Writer/director Minghella doesn't seem to know what he wanted to tell his story about, so he decided to chock it full of everything-family relationships, father/daughter, mother/son, crime, a bit of detective work, affairs. I found it hard to keep up with what was happening now. But it's absorbing, and surprisingly entertaining. even though it is a little confused.
"Breaking and Entering" is a story about crime-crimes against the law and crimes against the heart. Our hero, if you could call him that, is Will, an architect whose newest project is working in an office in King's Cross-an area in London impoverished, and kind of dangerous. He is working to try and change the neighborhood for the better. Will lives with his girlfriend of ten years-the Swedish Liv, who many simply call his wife. Liv has a daughter from a previous relationship who is very difficult-doesn't want to eat, doesn't sleep, keeps Will and Liv up all night. She even has to use a certain kind of towel. If it's yellow, or has any yellow in it at all, it's no good. Maybe it's autism-maybe it's a plot device-I don't know. What I do know is that Liv's daughter Beatrice is not at the top of Will's priority list. He is too busy with work to be completely concerned with her, and even shows up late to family psychiatrist meetings. It all is fine until one night the office is broken into, and Will is missing his laptop, and several of his tiny scale models used for. . . modeling. The criminal is Miro, a young boy who is drifting down the wrong path. After escaping a Bosnia uprising with his mother, Miro doesn't like to go to school, and spends his days making petty cash as a thief. His mother, the beautiful and vulnerable Amira, doesn't trust anyone, and works as a tailor in her home. She wants what is best for her son, almost lost him once, and doesn't want to loose him again. Will stakes out in his office as the crimes continue, and eventually discovers who the thief is. He begins to bring clothes to Amira to have tailored, until he figures out what to do about her son, the crook. However, he begins to fall under a kind of strange spell, and finds himself attracted to Amira, leading to an affair, and leading to moral dilemma's all around.
The main problems with "Breaking and Entering" is that too many is happening. Instead of focusing on one point, Minghella drifts far too much, introducing many ideas and concepts in the first half that are unneeded, and not even brought back in the second half. One of these is Will's partners attraction to one of the cleaners. There are two scenes involving this, and then neither character is even seen until the last minute or so. The second is Will's conversations with Oana, a Russian hooker in King's Cross who keeps him company when he is staking out in front of his office. She's in two or three scenes, wears skimpy outfits, and talks to Will about life-and then tries to charge him fifty pounds. And then she steals his car, which was an even more useless subplot as she brings it back in the later half. Now I don't mind seeing Vera Farmiga in skimpy outfits for ten minutes, but she was just not needed here. Perhaps the original cut was about three hours long and all of these little subplots and characters were drawn out a bit more, but in the current cut it is overlong and not needed. In addition to these additional characters, the story doesn't stop making new additions. The affair subplot comes so much later in the story that it is more like a footnote. There was no basis for Will's attraction to Amira, and it comes out of nowhere-as if Minghella was trying to duplicate the success of "Closer" by turning Jude Law into another adulteress boyfriend. And in the end, the affair was just a tool to make the ending-which was far too neat and tidy-possible. There were also hints to an affair between Liv and her daughter's dance teacher, but that was only in one line of the script, and discarded quickly after.
The performances are mediocre, and nothing extraordinary. In fact, this seems like a showcase for actors trying to display their knacks(or lack thereof in some cases) for accents. It seems like the only two displaying their real accents were Jude Law and Ray Winstone. There was Robin Wright Penn as a Swedish woman, Juliette Binoche as a Bosnian woman, and Vera Farmiga as a Russian. Mysteriously none of these actresses are of those races, and to add to the mystery, none of them were very good at pretending they were either. Law seemed to be the only natural here, but then again he was just playing the part the same way that he plays every single part-with that boyish charm but dark undertones.
I think that Minghella has a winner here buried underneath too much uselessness. It is directed well, and there are a number of interesting shots-one of my favorites involved the first break in, where we just see a desk in the office, and then suddenly a shower of glass cover part of the screen. It may not sound like much, but within the context of the film it was a beautiful image. And he really does capture the seedy heart of London, often putting a darker hue on the outside scenes as opposed to the indoors. The skies are normally gray in this area, with the sun not shining very much at all. But, if the script was a little toned, the rating could be bumped higher. There is too much going on, and he should have stuck to one story, instead of introducing all these little sub characters who disappear soon enough. There was also no repentance in the end at all, for anybody. Suddenly, after all the lies and betrayals and crimes against the heart, everything turns out fine and dandy for all three of these people. There was not even the sense of mystery that while everything seems alright, there are still a few issues that need to be sorted through. Everybody goes home happy. The theme of the film is supposed to be that using the heart could just about be as bad as breaking the law, but there is no justice for what anybody did-which left the third act very much a downer. I did not walk out with a satisfied feeling-I walked out with the feeling of disappointment. That if another run of proofreading was done I may have seen something more than just full of good ideas-but something that was successful in conveying these ideas. "Breaking and Entering" is entertaining-I didn't get the urge to check my watch once, and it was a pretty long film-but it is just too much bull, and needs to stop straying away with useless devices and people.
I am conflicted with this one. I did enjoy it, but it doesn't have what it needs to qualify as a recommendation. I suppose I could say that it is flawed, but I'll give you a little nudge. On both the art house field and the mainstream field it's one of the better films of the year at this point, but nothing award worthy in the least.